The Los Angeles Clippers have moved out of the frying pan, and into the fire. They defeated the Memphis Grizzlies while playing on the road in Game 7 in an impressive victory, but the road to glory does not get any easier against the Spurs.
The Spurs have been playing the best basketball in the NBA for the last 2 months. Tony Parker leads an offense that was near the top of the league in FG% and 3-point FG%. They have a deep, talented bench that features youth that complements the veterans on the team very well. They swept a very tough and hard playing Utah Jazz team simply by out-executing them on the offensive end. The Spurs are also almost completely healthy for the first time in years.
This leads us to the second major obstacle in overcoming the Spurs: health. The Clippers have not been so lucky this year when it comes to the injury bug. Blake Griffin is reportedly playing at around 80% totally healthy; Chris Paul is playing with a strained hip and jammed fingers; Caron Butler was supposed to be out for a month with a fractured hand, but has gone into “Tuff Juice”-mode and been playing through it. The Spurs will no doubt be trying to take advantage of the Clippers injuries as well, forcing Paul and Griffin to put themselves into uncomfortable positions.
The last reason this series will be a tough on for the Clippers to win? Coaching. This is a mismatch to say the least. The Spurs have Greg Popovich, the NBA’s current Coach of the Year, who took his Spurs all the way to a NBA title the last time the season was shortened by a lock-out. It would needless to say be unsurprising if Pop managed to do that again this year. The Clippers, on the other hand, have Vinny Del Negro. This is a troublesome match-up; Del Negro almost lost his match in mid-March, when it appeared the team had stopped listening to him. It will be surprising if Del Negro gets a contract extension, and the Clippers offense in the 4th quarter all year has been highly lacking in brilliant Xs and Os coaching. The system is basically, give Chris Paul the ball, and let him improvise. I don’t think this will hold up against the Coach of the Year and is perhaps the biggest reason my prediction is that the Spurs will win this series in 6 games.